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PennHeatlhX's "MD as a Passport" Conference brought speakers and workshops that focused on connecting careers in traditional practice to those in medical technology.

Credit: Daniel Xu

Penn’s medical school graduates are thriving in tech fields — instead of becoming clinical physicians, some are choosing to found apps or startups instead.

Philadelphia medical students and prominent leaders in the field joined together to connect medicine and technology Saturday, as the PennHealthX program hosted its inaugural “MD as a Passport” Conference at the Jordan Medical Education Center.

PennHealthX started as a small group of medical students and has become a large student group and certificate program within the Perelman School of Medicine. Members of PennHealthX said they were excited to lead the conference, which is indicative of the program’s emphasis on hosting educational events.

The theme of “MD as a Passport” represents the ways in which medical degrees can lead individuals to innovative endeavors and career experiences beyond traditional clinical medicine. The conference focused on the integration of clinical medicine, health care, management and technology, and included speakers and workshops.

“Each speaker offers something unique,” Penn medical student and Vice President of PennHealthX Nadir Bilici said. “We are trying to give students an opportunity to see people who are just barely taking a couple of months out of med school to people at the end of their career and everything in between.”

“This is the first year — our inaugural conference — but we are hoping to keep it going,” Bilici said. “It will ideally serve as an annual gathering of right now the Philadelphia med schools, but hopefully eventually it could be all the national med schools of students who are really interested in this sort of HMET (health care, management, entrepreneurship and technology) space.”

The conference featured two prominent keynotes speakers, Principal of Laskowski Advisors Dr. Robert J Laskowski and Chief Financial Officer of Moderna Therapeutics Dr. Lorence Kim.

“I think that there are a lot of different routes you can take as a physician, not just academic medicine,” second-year Penn medical student Emmanuel Pardo said, adding that the speakers “provided stories and examples for us to follow in the future.”

The conference contained innovative workshops in which attendees learned from experts and gained practical skills in diverse fields. Roderick Wong, the managing partner of healthcare investment firm RTW Investments LLC, led a workshop entitled, “How to think like a venture capitalist.”

“[Wong’s] story just showed that you can take multiple different routes, where it is not just a straight line to get to where you want to get to; it’s a lot of trial and error,” Pardo said.

Other workshops included “How to think like a designer” and “How to think like a negotiator.”

The “passport stories” section was a unique and meaningful component of the conference for students. Young leaders in health care and technology-based fields presented their stories and gave advice drawn from their personal experiences. For example, David Lindsay, Penn graduate student in the Department of Bioengineering and co-founder of health care analytics startup Oncora Medical, presented his story.

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